HAVANA._ As the identities of the first investors to be established within the Mariel Special Development Zone (MSDZ) are still unknown, the office responsible for the enclave is constantly receiving uncountable proposals and requests from businesses attracted to what will likely become the gateway for foreign investment in Cuba.

Since the opening of the MSDZ‘s main 700m container terminal in January 2014, proposals from over 30 countries have been submitted, and they are currently passing through a rigorous evaluation process.

As the identities of the first investors to be established within the Mariel Special Development Zone (MSDZ) are still unknown, the office responsible for the enclave is constantly receiving uncountable proposals and requests from businesses attracted to what will likely become the gateway for foreign investment in Cuba.Spain, Italy, China, Panama, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Russia, France, and Portugal rank among the principal contestants in the sectors of industrial and logistical activity as well as renewable energy.

According to the project, the Mariel Zone, some 45 miles west of Havana, will constitute an industrial base for importation, manufacturing, as well as domestic and foreign sales. It will also encompass a modern mega-port servicing national and international vessels, and which is designed to comply with the best shipping and port practices and environmental protection guidelines.

During a recent conference of the Cuban Center for Economic Research, MSDZ representatives confirmed that, from the hundreds of proposals submitted by foreign businesses over the past two years, they have now approved the first two projects.

Both projects are now in the incorporation and registration process so as to have legal standing in Cuba and will only be formally recognised thereafter.

According to statistics provided by MSDZ officials, most of the business applications are from entirely foreign owned companies.

It is also noteworthy that two studies on ground planning and market conditions to promote large scale investments are well underway. Basic infrastructural and public utility works –such as railway, water, electricity and communications– are ongoing in the MSDZ to facilitate the installation of the first impending investments, and logistical and industrial development.

A “fast track“ for documents, licenses, permits, and authorization applications, has been set up in the area in one sole location in order to facilitate and speed up paperwork for future investors.

All such information is not yet widely known but, when it will be, it should assure people’s expectations that the platform will become the principal gateway for Cuban global trade and inward foreign investment.

Despite this official secrecy, in a statement issued at the end of February, the Mexican Foreign Affairs Department said that the Mexican Richmeat is the first international company to have been approved to invest in the MSDZ.

According to the release, the project involves meat processing and packaging by Richmeat de Cuba, S.A.

The first industrial free trade zone in Cuba encompasses 465.4 square kilometers in the province of Artemisa, west of Havana, including the municipalities of Guanajay, Mariel, Caimito, Bauta, Bahía Honda and Artemisa.

To facilitate this operation, Cuban authorities approved a regime of special integrated policies with a legal standing that builds on previous foreign investment experiences and errors, to be added to the new Foreign Investment Act that has been in effect since last June.

This ensures that the MSDZ will interact with the national economy and is not exclusively outward looking, but will exploit state of the art technology, services and production destined for export and the substitution of imports.

Such an environment will attract blue chip individual and institutional traders as well as a range of diversely incorporated international companie

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